The annual LBI FLY kite festival can safely be called a world-class event, drawing the top names in the international kite flying community from Canada, Germany and Tasmania. “The best kite fliers in the world want to come here,” according to festival founder Lisa Willoughby, a master-level sport kite pilot and Surf City resident.
By those whose observations come in a worldwide context, the Island’s festival has been confirmed the biggest in North America, in terms of number of kites in the air and accompanying kite-related events. The turnout for this, its fourth year, was the biggest yet, according to organizers’ estimates. As an annual event, the LBI FLY is deeply established for being so new, Willoughby said.
Willoughby’s masters kite-making series of seminars elevates the event’s appeal, drawing the highest-caliber kiters and their entourages. Even with the materials measured and cut ahead of time and brought as kits, “these are complicated pieces to make,” she said. The kite makers come Wednesday and stay through Friday, setting up inside the Long Beach Township municipal building, where the electrical outlets on the floors lend themselves to a sewing shop. Such masters classes take place elsewhere but not usually in conjunction with a full festival, she said – the advantage to that is they can build and display their work.
One of this year’s designers, Doug Stout, made six kites out of newspaper and flew those on Sunday, Willoughby noted. Boll races and candy drops are always big hits with families who come to enjoy the activities on the beach.
Other highlights of the festival include sponsored kites; flying lessons available to the public on the beach; and the wind garden, which is unique to LBI – a European thing Willoughby brought home and would like to see expanded in future festivals and used as an advertising tool for local businesses and schools. That way the community has real ownership of it.
To think it went from a few people with a vision to being touted as one of the world’s greatest kite festivals is overwhelming, she mused. She added something else to be proud of is the economic boost to the Island towns.
While a kite festival is always at the mercy of the winds and weather, the beauty of LBI FLY, Willoughby said, is the show goes on no matter what. Indoor flyers, for example, can fly in windless conditions, and many kite enthusiasts also enjoy bubbles or some other form of airborne entertainment.
— Victoria Ford